Last updated July 2014
Debris in ponds is inevitable and natural, but if you’re a fish keeper, you need to minimise the strain on the filtration equipment by removing debris as soon as possible. It’s easy with a pond vacuum.
Why vacuum your fish pond?
As a fishkeeper, even more so if you’re a Koi keeper, you spend a fair amount of time clearing up waste, therefore the more effective the method, the more time you have to enjoy watching your pets. However effective your bottom drain, filtration, skimmer and netting are, the dreaded debris eventually accumulates in dead spots and has to be removed. If left to decompose it will give off harmful substances, and maybe even harbour harmful bacteria too.
Hand-pumped vacs for fish ponds
Hand-pumped devices suitable for small and shallow ponds are basic models, acting like a bicycle pump in reverse. They either force water through a waste bag that traps the disturbed debris, or through a hose that you can direct to a drain, container or the garden. You can make use of this nutrient-rich liquid later by storing it in a water barrel or similar.
Check that a filter bag is supplied, but if you want the option of diverting the water, check the outlet for compatibility with a hose fitting.
Some units make use of mains water power to suck up debris into a bag, which reduces the effort on your part. Whichever vac you choose, it’s best if you net out leaves, blanket weed, grit and gravel first to ease the load and prevent the filter bags from clogging up quickly.
Powered vacs for fish ponds
These meatier models are supplied with various pump ratings, flow rates and handle lengths to suit different water depths. Also check to see if the unit can be used with a strainer for the option of returning the pondwater to the pond.
Pond vac maintenance
Little maintenance is necessary for pond vacs but they benefit from being stored in a clean and dry condition, including the debris basket.
Hand pumps may need their valves replaced at intervals so look out for service kits.
Powered pumps are not used as often as filter pumps so they don’t need the same care, and any fault and subsequent delay in repair is not so critical. However, it’s still important that electrical connections and cables are checked before each use.
8 top tips for buying and using a pond vac
- Be realistic about your needs. Choose the right sized vacuum (see Bradshaws Direct or Pondkeeper) to deal with your pond and its normal load of debris.
- Be realistic about the vac’s capability. If it has a narrow nozzle it can’t pick up leaves. If it requires 3 bar mains water pressure, it won’t work on 1 bar.
- Ask the manufacturer or stockist for the specifications, and ask other fish keepers about their experiences.
- Read online reviews from buyers – often the ‘cheap and easy’ vacs are cheap for a reason.
- Check the nozzle size – is it appropriate for the size and type of debris that you want to collect, and will it exclude the smallest fish in your pond?
- Check that you can easily attach and detach fittings and the strainer basket.
- Check the handle length. Will you be able to reach the far corners of your pond? Is it too long to work with comfortably in some situations?
- Try out hand-pumped vacuums (from Bradshaws Direct; Pondkeeper) to see how easy they are to use. There’s no point buying one that’s too hard to operate; it’ll just end up lurking in the shed.
- Find out how heavy the pump is, and how bulky. Is it on wheels? Will you be able to handle it and store it easily?
- Make vacuuming less of a chore by making it a monthly routine, otherwise you’ll have a longer session when you finally get around to it.